MCNZH, First Floor
We have a bad habit in North America of not planning for the future. In our built environment, one way in which this habit manifests itself is disposable buildings. Tearing down a building after 30 years, a practice that would shock most Europeans, is completely normal here. We need to change this mindset.
My wife and I will probably build only one house in our lifetimes. We love Edmonton and the Mill Creek neighborhood, so we want to stay here for the foreseeable future. Since our circumstances will certainly change during the next 50 or so odd years, we're building a flex house.
The first floor of the Mill Creek NetZero Home (MCNZH) has a wheelchair-accessible bathroom in it. This is largely because my mom needs it, but it's also making this house flexible for us in case we're not walking on two legs our entire lives. Hey, it happens. We also have a den on the first floor which is convertible to a bedroom in the future if we need to transition to one floor living.
We're also building our retirement condo into this house. The side entrance can be framed out to create a separate suite out of the second floor and loft. When we need to downsize, we can split up the house and fund our retirement with rental income (if zoning bylaws allow, of course). To this end, we're running electrical and plumbing upstairs for a future kitchen and washing machine.
MCNZH, Second Floor
The cheapest time to do renovations is when you're initially building a house. It costs very little to run conduit and electrical wire for a second-floor stove before drywalling, etc. has been completed.
Building for durability (longterm usefulness) and flexibility is making the most of your resources, and that makes it a green way to go. With a bit of forethought, we hope that the MCNZH will remain useful to us for decades to come.
(cross posted at www.raisingspaces.com)